10 Reade Street, Financial District, 267-5900

One block north of City Hall, this new Sicilian restaurant has often been empty since its inception, though the adjacent and affiliated pizza parlor hosts a hopping after-work scene. Drop in and enjoy steak Siciliana, an expertly cooked sirloin heaped with toasted and oiled bread crumbs; or a seafood salad generously furnished with shrimp, squid, and conch; or a selection from the intriguing pasta list, though we were disappointed in pasta con sarde, which had so much fresh fennel it tasted like someone dumped lawn cuttings on it. And please use canned sardines, fellas! Sietsema $$


88 Division Street, Financial District, 625-8099

Fuzhou food continues to flourish up and down Eldridge Street, and this restaurant has a menu predictably oriented toward noodle soups and over-rice dishes. From the former category comes a lamb soup with thin wheat noodles in a rich mutton broth, making you glad it’s not made with today’s flavorless lamb; from the latter an astonishing “spare ribs with cooking wine on rice”Älittle nuggets of taro and boneless meat lightly breaded and inundated with a tart red sauce. The upscale end of the menu includes Fuzhou favorites like tortoise, rabbit, and the quizzical “braised crucian in soy sauce.” Sietsema ¢



13 Barrow Street, West Village, 741-6699

As elegantly appointed as the interior of a haute couture handbag, this West Village bijou specializes in delicately innovative turns on Asian cuisine, like lacquered squab accompanied by candied walnuts, and tea smoked foie gras and grilled sea scallops served atop braised daikon. There’s even a fillip for plain ole roast chicken. Here it’s with a stuffed savory mince of pigs feet and served in a sherry reduction perfumed with white truffle. Leave room for quince crumble, which comes with its own souffl™ and thimble of sweet Vouvray. Keep the address in your Palm, ’cause you will be back for more. Harris $$$


103 Third Avenue, East Village, 477-4500

This handsome brasserie outruns most of its East Village bistro brethren by featuring a more expansive menu of French standards, including raw bar stuff, sandwiches, and assiettes of vegetables, meats, and cheeses. About half our selections on a recent visit were memorable, especially a spectacular bowl of mussels in a broth that subtly incorporated curry, fresh herbs, and rich chicken stock. The salmon tartare, too, was top notch, although a fish ceviche€effervescing on the tongue€was clearly over the edge, and we thought the sirloin in the steak frites too puny. There’s also a diverting by-the-glass wine list. Sietsema $$


113 St. Marks Place, East Village, 614-2728

You know another Great Depression is in the offing when tube steaks once again masquerade as a main course. This new doggery features smoked weenies deep fried the way they do at Clifton, New Jersey’s sainted Rutt’s Hut. There’s a broad range of toppings, including a great beanless chili (add chopped jalapeÏos for extra heat), and even a decent vegetarian dog. The waffle fries are only so-so, but who cares when you smother them in cheese. Made from real ice cream instead of skanky soft serve, the thick $3 milk shake is one of the best dairy deals in town (pick coffee). Sietsema ¢


338 East 6th Street, East Village, 979-2135

The unbroken queue of Bangladeshi restaurants with nearly identical menus has finally been breached by Guru, with a bill of fare that features South Indian faves mixed with Mughal vegetarian standards and chats (informal snacks). Though the menu lists 16 types of dosaÄthe potato-stuffed crepe made from a batter of fermented rice and lentilsÄthere’s little difference between them. Breads are a high point, especially the methi paratha, stuffed with fresh fenugreek leaves. Mughal dishes like bhindi masala are a particularly good deal, served thali style with pickles, chutneys, salad, and other small dishes. Sietsema $


328 East 14th Street, East Village, 228-3760

East Villagers will proudly add this new Haitian caf» to their amazing portfolio of ethnic dining possibilities. Facing down Filipino, Cuban, Ukrainian, and Indian-Nepalese competition around the same corner, L’Incomparable sticks to the Haitian classics, each a full meal including mini-salad, rolls and butter, rice with pureed beans, or rice and peas, and banane p»see (Haitian Creole for tostones). The pricey lambi (conch ragu) is a credible rendition, the goat stew too long on vegetables, while the grillot (fried marinated pork chunks) is simply superb. By all means, ask for the hot sauce: it looks like coleslaw, but eats like Scotch bonnet pepper. Sietsema $


357 Sixth Avenue, West Village, 414-8429

Brought to you by the folks responsible for a couple of the city’s best cheap Japanese eateriesÄMenchanko-Tei and KatsuhamaÄnewcomer Ony modestly bills itself as a noodle bar, specializing in pristine soba, udon, and ramen presentations. As an added bonus, they also offer sushi, focusing mainly on nori rolls and reaching a level above the East Village average. The West Village has long craved a noodle establishment of this caliber, and the comfy seating and diffuse illumination made it a very relaxing spot. No liquor licenseÄbring your own Japanese beer from the deli a few steps south. Sietsema $


46 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, 675-5224

Central to the menu at this meat-market Moroccan is a series of innovative tajines—slow-cooked and subtly flavored stews served in a distinctive ceramic vessel. One mixes cornish hen with preserved lemon—an improvement on an old favorite—while others are more off-the-wall: one matches salmon forcemeat with tomatoes and olives, while another deposits a tajine of lamb and quince over bulky Israeli couscous. Best of all is a beef rib tangia, a bachelor’s supper of rich meat cooked with lemon in a Roman-style amphora. Chill in the sedate dining room and watch the hordes descend on Pastis, just across cobbled Gansevoort Square. Sietsema $$

14TH TO 42ND


126 East 28th Street, Murray Hill, 252-1345

It’s so alive with color and filled with goodies that walking into Zarela Martinez’s new place is like falling into a piÏata. This lively spot celebrates the cuisine of Mexico’s Veracruz province. Downstairs, the bar serves imbibers mega-margaritas and a range of Mexican beer; it also has a few tables for smokers. Upstairs and down, the menu offers such unusual delights as mariquitas, plantain chips served with their own spicy peanut sauce, barbecued chunks of pork known as carne de Chango, and the state’s classic snapper in a savory sauce of tomatoes, chiles, onions, garlic, capers, and pimiento stuffed olives. Harris $$$


11 East 20th Street, Flatiron District, 358-0506

The reclining Buddha, the teapot chandeliers, and the cozy yet quirky atmosphere of this tea salon-cum-shop explain why it remains a favorite of fatigued shoppers along the Flatiron strip. The menu is simpleÄa few warm items, but mainly sandwiches like smoked salmon on black bread or traditional tea fare like scones, dripping with devon cream. There is also a seemingly endless tea list including 480 interesting house blends. Harris $

42ND TO 59TH


530 Ninth Avenue, 279-1755

Tucked away on Ninth Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, this tiny, wood-paneled eatery offers Gotham the food of Senegal. Baba Maal and Youssou N’dour wail on the box while the chef wails in the kitchen, turning out a wonderfully peanut-infused maffe and a vegetable-rich thiebu djen. A lemony chicken yassa, complete with a flavorful slurry of onions, took me back to Dakar, while the sauce feuilles and poisson braise recalled Abidjan days. The welcome is a true Senegalese “Teranga.” Harris $


745 Ninth Avenue, 582-2288

Usually, restaurants go downhill as multiple branches are opened. This, the third Grand Sichuan in town (the others are in Chinatown and Chelsea), soars above the rest. The hot-oil-slicked conch, delicate and diaphanous like a mermaid’s ears, has an otherworldly flavor, while the shredded potatoes and vinegar sauce is unlike anything you’ve eaten in a Chinese restaurant before. Look in the Mao’s Home Cooking section to discover home-style dishes like red-cooked pork with chestnuts, and—the advice pertains to all three restaurants—don’t miss the bacony-tasting tea-smoked duck. Sietsema $


149 East 49th Street, 407-2900

The bean dip that arrives instead of butter with the bread and the edamame all round are some of the hints that this eatery in the W Hotel cares about more than the weight of your wallet. Marginal notes remind that red wine raises good cholesterol and beans contain chemicals that inhibit cancer, and the menu, with an accent on fish and delights like a rich unctuous squash soup, meaty crab cakes, and a toothsome roast chicken, is not only good, but also good for you. Enjoy, ’cause it’s not often you get the chance to indulge and feel virtuous at the same time. Harris $$



2637 Broadway, 665-9541

The narrow entranceway doesn’t hint at the humongous dining room, wrapped in fabrics like a sultan’s tent and dimly lit for the benefit of dating couples who hold hands in the flickering candlelight. Perhaps for them also, the food is blander than it usually is in a Turkish restaurant, and the signature grilled green chile is missing from the ensembles. Nevertheless, the shepherd’s salad is abundant and well oiled, and the fingers of Fatima (sigara borega) are well fried, with good feta oozing out either end. Contrary to form, the chicken breast kebab is superb, arriving moist in the interior and slicked with orangeish oil. Sietsema $$



6011 Seventh Avenue, Sunset Park, 718-765-0037

This very modest sandwich shop-located at the center of what is fast becoming Sunset Park’s Little Saigon-is the most exciting thing to happen in Vietnamese food in the last five years. The very friendly staff dispenses banh mi, sandwiches made on fresh, hot baguettes loaded with a choice of seven fillings and garnished with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and Chinese sausage, a steal at $2.75. Wash it down with a litchi shake or a cup of bittersweet coffee, and check the countertop and glass case for other snacks like spring rolls and pastries. Sietsema ¢


142 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights, 718-246-5577

The Gallic rooster at this upstairs Brooklyn yearling crows about Proven*al cuisine. Omelettes, steak frites and the like line the bill of fare. There’s a subtle nod, though, to the former colonies in travel posters of Algeria and Tunisia, art deco advertisements for Pacha products, and menu items from North Africa. Try the shorba and chicken tajine. The former is a peppery slurry of zucchini, carrot, lentil, and more; the latter, a densely flavorful saffron-hued stew punctuated with preserved lemon and piquant olives. Or simply hold out for the couscous royal. It’s a perfect spot to hide from the travails of jury duty. Harris $$


8518 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, 718-748-2854

It’s something of a minor miracle that this ancient Teutonic ice cream parlor-cum-candy shop and luncheonette still exists just off the painfully modern 86th Street shopping strip. The sandwiches and breakfasts that were once standard shopper’s fare still comprise much of the menu, complemented by good homemade ice cream that can be enjoyed at a real soda fountain replete with spinning green Naugahyde stools. Waffles are a more modern addition, a bit dry on their own, but brought to life with a range of gloppy toppings. My favorite item: a scrambled-egg-and-sausage sandwich on toasted whole wheat washed down with a refillable cup of great retro coffee. Sietsema ¢


432 Graham Avenue, Williamsburg, 718-349-7800

That a non-hipster restaurant can still open in Williamsburg is a shock. This nonconformist, decorated in Jersey Suburban, was founded by descendants of immigrants from the Italian town of Teggiano. Though the house tomato sauce is somewhat bland, there are many admirable nonna (“grandma-style”) dishes, including an eggplant rollatini oozing good ricotta, deliciously plain escarole and beans, and spectacular linguine with broccoli rabe and garlic, a special some days. After dinner, hop across the street to enjoy the coffee and killer cannoli at Caffé Capri. Sietsema $


7524 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst, 718-331-9259

Nobody would expect a world-class Vietnamese restaurant to materialize in the midst of Sicilian Bensonhurst, but there it is. The heart of every Viet menu, the pho broth is rich and odoriferous, and they don’t stint with the quantity and quality of beef, either. The hostess is quick to explicate the cuisine to anyone who wanders in with a bewildered expression, and when she urges you to get the $10 appetizer platter (No. 54), take her advice! It contains generous samples of six dishesÛbeef rolls, sugarcane shrimp, barbecued chicken and pork chop, braised beef, and spring rollÛwith enough greenery to wrap everything. Sietsema ¢


841 Utica Avenue, East Flatbush, 718-342-2490

That’s Ricky up on the awning, wearing chef’s whites and turning chicken on the oil-drum barbecue with a long fork. Good jerk chicken is the raison d’ítre for this sterling carryout, with a good smoky flavor and crisp skin. Don’t ask for the jerk sauce, though, because it’s a little too much like bad barbecue sauce. Even better than the chicken is goat curry, a mass of well-seasoned meat in a zingy gravy, served with cole slaw and rice-and-peas. Examine the selection of manhood tonics, and don’t miss the Plexiglas case flaunting risqu™ island comic books. Cash only. Sietsema ¢


201 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, 718-230-5636

Responding to the spate of wildly successful Italian wine and snack bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Tamari bills itself as a “Japanese tapas and sake bar.” The menu features an East Village-quality selection of sushi, outdone by a wonderful appetizer of oshi-zushi, the pressed variant of sushi. The tapas range from tuna tartare on a bed of Asian pear and avocado fashionably formed into a puck to a rather woody Korean squid pancake overshadowed by its zingy dipping sauce to a pleasing salad of rare duck breast in a sweet and chive-dotted miso dressing. Sietsema $$



42-96 Main Street, Flushing, 718-939-1188

In Main Street’s smorgasbord of Chinese restaurants, this joint is unique, offering an entirely vegetarian menu, with credible meatless renditions of congee, steamed dumplings, and bean curd Szechuan-style. Perhaps more interesting are the dishes that mimic flesh, ranging from barbecued ribs to duck to snails, with varying results (marvel at the roast pork made with rye-bread crust€it almost works). Top of the line, and most recommended, is the “whole lobster”€spinach torso, asparagus legs, and a tail composed of shredded tofu textured like lobster meat, though falling short of it in flavor. Sietsema $


90-59 Corona Avenue, Elmhurst, 718-699-7473

Proving that food doesn’t have to be good to be fascinating, this eatery is an authentic chifaÄa South American Chinese restaurantÄtransplanted from Lima. The playful menu features a chef on the cover with a baby’s head superimposed, and emphasizes seafood, including a good parihuela, a thick soup rife with crab and squid. Stick with lo mein stir-fries of duck or shrimp and you’ll do fine, but avoid kamlu wonton, a smoldering heap of fried wontons smothered with canned peaches and pineapple in thick red syrup that will leave you nearly retching. Dishes are big enough to serve two or three people. Sietsema ¢


106-50 Sutphin Avenue, Jamaica, 718-206-1484

Offering inspiring views of a Tudor funeral-home complex, this brand-new carryout specializes in Carolina-style soul food, and most of the pristine selections are visible on the long steam table: barbecued ribs, pulled pork, chitlins, candied yams, pigs’ feet, and macaroni salad. Stumbling on the Castle as we drove north toward downtown Jamaica through a pleasant, tree-shaded neighborhood, we inhaled mac and cheese with a thick cheddar crust, a huge portion of fatty oxtails in a mellow brown gravy, and mayonnaise potato salad in which the potatoes retained their character. The collards, though, were way too sweet. Sietsema ¢


72-08 Broadway, Jackson Heights, 718-476-1902

This ocean liner of a new Indian restaurant has stunned the neighborhood, with its polished woods and broad upstairs dining room offering panoramic views of Broadway. Whether it becomes the culinary successor to the old Jackson Diner remains to be seen, but a first look reveals a certain delicacy in the cooking and an elegance in the plating heretofore unknown in Jackson Heights. The lamb vindaloo is appropriately hot and greasy, the aloo ghobióa mÈlange of cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoesónuanced and heaped with ginger shards, while the tender tandoori chicken is a shade better than the area standard. Expect to pay 50 percent more than usual. Sietsema $


41-10 149th Place, Flushing, 718-445-2542

You won’t find better Korean barbecue anywhere in town. This one features the usual list of beef and pork cuts, in addition to lesser-knowns such as a pair of live eels and a foursome of quail, the latter quite a bargain at $15.95. Beef and birds are grilled over irregular hardwood charcoal of the type obsessive barbecuers use, though pork and seafood are fried. The menu also offers noodle dishes and rustic stews, and to get you in the mood, the room is festooned with vines and lined with bark like a mountain cabin. Sietsema $$



3925 Baychester Avenue, Edenwald, Bronx, 718-994-9820

The area north of Gun Hill Road is swarming with Jamaican restaurants, and the Bronx clearly aims to give Brooklyn a run for its money as far as jerk chicken goes. Unappealingly surrounded by gas stations, Caribbean Taste offers a version smoked over charcoal and doused with a jerk sauce a little on the sweet side and less fiery than most. The escovitch fish is another spectacular entrªe, a whole fried mackerel bedded in a julienne of pickled vegetables in a clear vinegar sauce with plenty of heat. Best liquid accompaniment: the lovable grapefruit soda called Ting. Sietsema ¢

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